When Things Don’t Make Sense
When I first came to the Senate, I vowed to learn the ways of Missouri’s upper legislative chamber and figure out how things worked. Now, nearly two years later, I think I have a pretty good grasp of the situation. Every once and a while, though, things happen that just don’t add up. Last week was one of those times. In fact, some actions I witnessed on the floor of the Senate reminded me of an old Seinfeld episode, “Bizzaro Jerry,” where every character had an opposite – a scenario that Jerry described as similar to Superman’s evil counterpart, Bizzaro.
Normally, the factions of the Missouri Senate align in predictable ways. For example, members of the majority tend to take pro-business positions on issues, while members of the minority reliably argue for a different point of view. This year, the actions of a third political faction have been “bizzarro,” over and over. In my opinion, the small group of senators who bill themselves as “the Conservative Caucus” have brought a level of frustration to the Senate unlike anything I can recall. In weeks past, I’ve called some of these folks out for what, in my opinion, was their obvious pursuit of self-interest (the redistricting battle being a prime example). This week, their tactics were just plain weird, or bizzarro, and made me question which side they were really on.
First, while the Senate was debating a routine measure relating to bids and contracts on public projects, a member of the Conservative Caucus proposed an amendment that would make it easier to sue small business owners who had no choice but to enforce vaccine mandates. What makes me even more frustrated, is that we have language ready to halt companies forcing employees to take the vaccine, but those same senators are not in agreement unless we open Missouri’s small business owners up to more lawsuits. The amendment was eventually withdrawn, but later in the week, a similar situation arose as the Senate was debating a tort reform bill. Missouri has one of the longest windows for bringing lawsuits in the nation. Plaintiffs have five years to file suit in Missouri, while most states limit their statutes of limitations to less than three years. As we worked to perfect a bill reigning in Missouri’s statute of limitations, a member of the Conservative Caucus spoke in support of an amendment offered by the minority party to actually give people MORE time to bring lawsuits. What in the world is happening?
In my opinion, this was just another example of actions speaking louder than words. At some point, I had enough and expressed my frustrations on the Senate floor. I went so far as to read the majority party’s platform statement on frivolous lawsuits to show that the actions taken by these members did not line up with their claims of being conservative. One day, they’re waving the party platform like a battle flag to shame fellow conservatives, and the next day they’re speaking in support of proposals that directly contradict the platform. Hopefully, we can bring the statute of limitations bill back up for further debate and move this important legislation forward.
Alternative realities aside, there was good news this week. I was especially pleased my Senate Bill 692 received a hearing in the Education Committee. This legislation fixes an oversight made in legislation passed a couple of years ago. When the Legislature previously established minimum hourly attendance standards for public schools, it failed to account for half-day kindergarten programs when setting requirements for make-up days. I proposed a solution after our Cape Girardeau School District Superintendent explained this oversight could cost their school district alone more than $150,000! All because their half-day classrooms couldn’t make up the hours required by law. My legislation merely makes an adjustment so school districts aren’t penalized inappropriately. It’s a simple fix, and I hope we can get it done before session ends on May 13.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.